The bully policy


(11/17/2004)

by Frances Edstrom

The dog-who-must-not-be-written-about is a little old for puppy love. But I can understand why he's so enthralled with my sister, who is much more faithful than I was, even pre-crutches, about taking him on walks. But still, even when I am petting him his eyes follow her every action.

"You're like a schoolboy, with your crush!" I accused him.

"She's very likable," he said, "and there is the fact that she understands my need for a social life, which you seem to have forgotten about entirely."

"Give me a break! I'm on crutches," I complained.

"Four legs should give you an advantage," he said rather haughtily. "Look at me."

"It's the equivalent of three legs, not four," I reminded him.

"Speaking of schoolboys," he said, "I don't remember my schooldays."

"You might say you were homeschooled," I said. "Some people call it ‘house trained.' Some dogs go to obedience class."

"Well, on my morning walk with Susan we usually talk about things we read in the paper or hear on the radio," he said, "and I've found that not having had schooldays leaves me at a disadvantage."

"You do?" I asked. "I thought all you did on walks was sniff trees and disgusting things you find on the boulevards"in fact that is what you did. But let's get back to your lack of schooldays."

He scratched his head, not a nice polite little scratch, but a long, hard thumping scratch with his hind leg. Then he settled himself and crossed his paws.

"Bullying. Legislating against bullying in the schools. Bullying policies. What does all this mean? I think this is something I would understand if you had let me go to school."

"Bullies are kids who beat up on others, kids they see as weaker, or different. Sometimes the abuse is physical, actual blows, sometimes just verbal."

"Oh, like that horrid cur down the street. Not nice! I'm just glad Susan couldn't understand the things he said. I'm glad he has an invisible fence, too."

"What the legislators want," I continued, "is that every school must write a policy about bullying."

"And it's as simple as that? That would stop bullying? Humans are so clever. I think we need a policy about that neighborhood mongrel."

"Well, a policy can't stop anything," I said. "The policy would just outline what behavior could be construed as bullying, and how it can be dealt with."

"Oh, dear," he said, "but isn't there a fine line? I mean, I'm a barker, but I'm no bully!"

"You are what is known as a wimp, so don't worry," I assured him.

"There's a certain level of acceptable behavior. You know, ‘dogs will be dogs' gives you a little leeway," I said as I scratched his ears. "But if dogs run loose or bite people or make a nuisance of themselves, their owners can be fined, that sort of thing. Mostly dog owners are expected to be responsible so their dogs don't become a menace to society."

"Bullies." he said. "What happens to a dog who is a bully, a menace to society?"

"Well," I said, trying to be gentle, "sometimes the police or animal control people come and take it away. In extreme cases, it must be euthanized, put to sleep."

"Where's the fairness there? Just because your owner isn't a responsible person you have to die? How can you humans be so cruel?"

We were both silent for a long while.

"In the article in the newspaper, it quoted the legislators as saying that ‘boys will be boys' won't be an excuse any longer. Does this mean that bullies will be, you know"like bad dogs are"?"

"Oh heavens no! But they will be punished," I said, "maybe kicked out of school, put on probation or something."

"Maybe human kids should be house trained and school trained. You know, maybe they should go to obedience classes," he suggested.

"That's what parents, grown-ups, are supposed to do at home, within the family," I said. "And it used to be schools could continue the teaching of a little discipline, too, but that's been pretty much legislated against. Now they only can have policies in place."

"It appears to me that legislators make their own problems," he said. "Instead of legislating paperwork, why don't they let grown-ups be responsible for obedience training their kids."

"You mean ‘let grown-ups be grown-ups,'?"

 

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